Kevin Harvick to drive No. 4 Chevy at Stewart-Haas; Ryan Newman moving on

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As Stewart-Haas Racing prepares to welcome Kevin Harvick next season, Ryan Newman will be looking for a new ride.

Harvick and Budweiser, his primary sponsor at Richard Childress Racing, are both making the jump to SHR as the California native will drive the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet starting in 2014.

“I think for me, the Stewart-Haas piece was intriguing just for the fact that you have Tony [Stewart] as a teammate,” Harvick said about what made SHR a better option for him.

“…We have a friendship that goes beyond the race track and I think obviously, [SHR co-owner] Gene Haas makes it very intriguing with the guarantees that he made to make the deal happen to put the car on the race track. When you have a family and you start seeing those guarantees of sponsorship for the car, it makes you think about things.

“I think not only those two pieces, but the Hendrick [Motorsports] tie-in with the engines and the support – understanding that, I think the potential is really high with all those resources and relationships and things that go with it.”

But with Stewart also confirming that his team was not ready to expand to a fourth program, that means Newman – who has raced with SHR since its inception in 2009 – will officially be a free agent at season’s end.

“Unfortunately, this will be the last year that we have Ryan with us,” said Stewart. “That’s probably what has made this a bittersweet day. I’m bringing in another one of my friends to the organization, but also knowing that I’m losing a friend at the end of the year to the organization.

“The No. 1 thing when Ryan and I spoke is that our friendship will not change. This was a business decision that was [team co-owner] Gene’s [Haas] as well as mine, and it was a hard decision.”

Newman, who has won three times in his five-year run with SHR, said that he was notified by Stewart of the decision on Wednesday. Commenting on the subject, Newman also made sure to emphasize his friendship with the three-time Cup champion but admitted that he had no idea about what his future may hold.

“That is something that weighs on my shoulders,” he said. “I have a little homework to do. That is part of racing and part of the situation that I’m in. I can’t say that I’m happy with how everything unfolded. I know that there are business decisions and business decisions sometimes trump friendships.

“I don’t feel like that was the case, but in the end, I’m happy with the three wins that I’ve had so far with Stewart-Haas and the performance and the cars and everything else. There will be a change for me in 2014 and I don’t know what that change is.”

Newman has collected 16 victories in his 11-year Cup career. His most recent one came with SHR at Martinsville in April of 2012.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.